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Sam Boal/

Ryanair threatens winter closure of Cork and Shannon bases if EU travel policy not adopted

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar previously said he was concerned by how well smaller airports could bounce back after Covid-19.

RYANAIR HAS THREATENED to close its bases in Cork and Shannon later this month unless Ireland fully adopts EU travel regulations that would allow unrestricted air travel to green and amber regions.

The bases in Cork and Shannon would close on 13 October and remain out of action until at least 1 April next year.

Ryanair has told Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan that the government’s restrictions on air travel have taken a toll on the airline industry, leading to the proposed closure of the two bases.

The company has asked for the government to adopt the EU’s travel list in a way that could significantly loosen restrictions on international travel compared to how they currently stand in Ireland.

The EU-wide policy, which is to be agreed upon by the EU Council of Ministers on 15 October, will use a traffic light system to mark countries as green, orange, or red depending on their rate of Covid-19 cases.

Countries with a 14-day incidence of less than 25 per 100,000, and less than 3% positive test rate, will be considered green.

Orange countries will have an incidence of less than 50 cases per 100,00, and countries will be considered red if there are more than 50 cases per 100,000.

Ryanair CEO Eddie Wilson said that because the government has kept Ireland “locked up”, international air travel “cannot be blamed” for the increasing rate of Covid-19 cases.

“If the Irish Government does not fully adopt the EU travel regulations permitting unrestricted air travel to/from those regions of Europe that are Green or Amber from 13 October next, then regrettably the Cork and Shannon bases will close on 26 October and will not reopen until 1 April 2021, at the earliest,” Wilson said.

Wilson said that Ryanair met with Minister Ryan online and complained that “neither he or his Department has implemented any of the Aviation Task Force recommendations since they were submitted on 7 July”.

“Meanwhile, aviation and Irish tourism is being vandalised by NPHET’s mismanagement and baseless unscientific travel advice which unfairly and unnecessarily locks Ireland up,” Wilson said.

The government has already said it would broadly support the European Commission’s approach on travel across the EU.

Last week, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he was concerned about the ability of Shannon and Cork airports to recover after Covid-19.

Speaking via a Zoom call for an event organised by Dublin Aerospace, Varadkar said that he was “genuinely worried” about smaller airports.

“I think routes like Dublin to London Heathrow will come back very quickly and be fine. I would be worried about Shannon and Cork bouncing back and very worried about some of those routes that are genuinely of strategic importance to our island,” Varadkar said.

Discussing the EU traffic light system, he said that the proposal was still “a bit up in the air”, and that increasing case numbers in European countries created a difficulty in deciding how to categorise the colour levels.

Ryanair previously threatened at the start of September to close its Cork and Shannon bases if the government didn’t lift existing flight restrictions.

If the new EU travel regulations are adopted, Ireland will no longer use the existing Green List system.

Currently, only four countries – Cyprus, Finland, Latvia, and Liechtenstein – are on the list, after Germany, Poland, Lithuania and Iceland were removed earlier this week.

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